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WASHINGTON — Reservists and Guardsmen who have served multiple overseas tours could get early retirement under a measure introduced by a pair of lawmakers Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson and Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren, would allow those troops to collect retirement benefits three months before their 60th birthday for every 90 days they spent activated in support of a contingency operation.

For reservists who served 20 years and spent two 12-month tours in Iraq, that would mean receiving their retirement payouts at 58, instead of waiting the extra two years.

"I’ve traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan … and seen the high level of work being done there by our guardsmen and reservists," Wilson said. "About the only difference between them and the other troops is that I know the reservists have a different retirement system."

Congress two years ago approved counting reservists’ time in Iraq and Afghanistan toward an early retirement, but the policy only applied to service after January 2008. Lawmakers dropped a clause to make the benefits retroactive during budget negotiations.

The new measure would make it retroactive to September 2001. Congressional officials projected the backdating could cost $1.8 billion over 10 years, although Boren called that figure misleading.

"You could argue that these are benefits (guardsmen and reservists) would have gotten anyways if they had stayed in until retirement," he said. "All this bill does is give them those benefits sooner" and not create any new retirement allowances.

The Reserve Officers Association of the United States backed the measure, calling it an issue of fairness for troops who earned their retirement benefits and an important tool for recruiting and retention.

About 600,000 reservists and guardsmen could be affected by the measure, association officials said.

No hearing date has been set for the legislation.

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